Cloud infrastructure is a term used to describe the components needed for cloud computing, which includes hardware, abstracted resources, storage, and network resources. Think of cloud infrastructure as the tools needed to build a cloud. In order to host services and applications in the cloud, you need cloud infrastructure.
Virtualization technology is used to abstract resources from physical hardware and pool them into clouds; automation software and management tools allocate these resources and provision new environments so users can access what they need—when they need it.
Cloud infrastructure is also a term used to describe a complete cloud computing system, once all the pieces are put together. In the same way that “IT infrastructure” is a singular term used to describe the multiple technologies that—together—serve as the foundation for an organization’s various computer systems.
In the same way, “cloud infrastructure” can also be used to describe the technologies that—once architected together—serve as the foundation for operating in a cloud environment. It’s a classic example of something becoming greater than the sum of its parts.
All this technology has to be enabled in order for cloud infrastructure to work. That relies on perhaps the most overlooked technology of all: the operating system.
What’s included in cloud infrastructure?
Cloud infrastructure is made up of several components, each integrated with one another into a single architecture supporting business operations. A typical solution may be composed of hardware, virtualization, storage, and networking components.
Components of cloud infrastructure
Although you probably think of clouds as being virtual, they require hardware as part of the infrastructure.
A cloud network is made up of a variety of physical hardware that can be located at multiple geographical locations.
The hardware includes networking equipment, like switches, routers, firewalls, and load balancers, storage arrays, backup devices, and servers.
Virtualization connects the servers together, dividing and abstracting resources to make them accessible to users.
Virtualization is technology that separates IT services and functions from hardware.
Software called a hypervisor sits on top of physical hardware and abstracts the machine’s resources, such as memory, computing power, and storage.
Once these virtual resources are allocated into centralized pools they’re considered clouds.
With clouds, you get the benefits of self-service access, automated infrastructure scaling, and dynamic resource pools.
Within a single datacenter, data may be stored across many disks in a single storage array. Storage management ensures data is correctly being backed up, that outdated backups are removed regularly, and that data is indexed for retrieval in case any storage component fails.
Virtualization abstracts storage space from hardware systems so that it can be accessed by users as cloud storage.
When storage is turned into a cloud resource, you can add or remove drives, repurpose hardware, and respond to change without manually provisioning separate storage servers for every new initiative.
The network is composed of physical wires, switches, routers, and other equipment. Virtual networks are created on top of these physical resources.
A typical cloud network configuration is composed of multiple subnetworks, each with varying levels of visibility. The cloud permits the creation of virtual local area networks (VLANs) and assigns static and/or dynamic addresses as needed for all network resources.
The cloud resources are delivered to users over a network, such as the internet or an intranet, so you can access cloud services or apps remotely on demand.
Public, private, and hybrid cloud infrastructure
To get started with any of the cloud computing types, you need a cloud infrastructure. You can create a private cloud by building it yourself using resources dedicated solely to you, or you can use a public cloud by renting the cloud infrastructure from a cloud provider so you don’t have to set it up yourself.
Cloud infrastructure vs. cloud architecture
A cloud architecture is how individual technologies are integrated to create cloud computing environments. It’s the way all the components that make up clouds—hardware, virtual resources, networks, operating systems, middleware, automation, management, containers, and more—are connected.
If cloud infrastructure is the tools you need to build a cloud, then cloud architecture is the blueprint for how you’ll build it. Think of it like building a house. You need materials and a blueprint to construct a house. Without a blueprint, you have nothing more than resources—wood, concrete, and nails. With a blueprint, those materials can be strategically combined to create the foundation, roof, and walls that make a house.